Downtown Dayton business adapts to virtual world

You can participate in a painting party from the comfort of your home

The coronavirus pandemic has forced small-business owners throughout the area and the country to get creative.

Dana Calhoun, of Picture Perfect Paint Parties in downtown Dayton, finds herself in that category, and she has plenty of company.

“I try not to act like I’m the only business this is affecting,” Calhoun said, “because I realize it’s affecting everyone: from the micro businesses to the huge businesses.”

Picture Perfect hosted its last two parties before the crisis in the first week of March. At that point, businesses were still open, but things were changing fast. Calhoun had spent a couple hundred dollars on cleaning supplies so people would know they were in a clean space while they were painting.

That didn’t matter when nonessential businesses started closing across the state in mid-March. In a two-day span in March, seven customers cancelled booked parties, and Calhoun had to refund $2,000. It was a gut punch for the business, which started as a fundraiser for Trinity Outreach Ministry and then grew into a mobile operation. In 2018, it opened a storefront in the Talbot Tower in Dayton.

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In normal times, Picture Perfect hosts team-building events for companies in which participants create works they might display in their office, or everyone contributes to one collaborative painting. It hosts mobile parties, bringing art supplies to a home or office. It also invites people to open hours in the studio at 131 N. Ludlow St. It also hosts parties for children.

“No need to miss birthday parties!” Calhoun said. “Give us a call, and we will create that special day for you — either kids or adults.”

Those are just a few examples of what the company does — or did until the COVID-19 crisis. Now it has gone online, selling virtual paint parties. The goal is to keep the experience as close as possible to what they would get in studio.

Here's how it will work. People register for events through the company's website. For example, there's a Sunday Inspiration class scheduled from 4-5:30 p.m. People get four canvases, brushes and paint shipped to them before the party.

Calhoun will send everyone who’s signed up a password. They’ll go online using Zoom, the video conferencing app that has become so popular in recent weeks. Calhoun will be in the middle of the screen. The participants will surround her.

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Calhoun or other artists working for her will take the participants through the painting step by step, offering encouragement along the way. They’ll listen to music throughout the event and sometimes taking a karaoke, comedy or dancing break in the middle. They’ll ask questions and will also hear other questions being asked.

“The hope is when you get off the line, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, you know I feel so much better,’” Calhoun said.

Calhoun hopes to book parties for all occasions during this time, even ministry and corporate team building events. That’s the goal as long as the stay-at-home order is in effect across Ohio and nonessential businesses remain closed.

Getting the online parties maybe really challenging, Calhoun said, because she doesn’t have much money left for advertising, and also has to worry about paying bills.

“But faith, creativity and a nonquitting attitude will prosper,” Calhoun said.

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